The Pursuit (Fund) of Happiness

So this post and everything contained within is a LONG time in coming. Lets start at the beginning…

I attended my first ever AIGA Raleigh meeting in the winter of 2012. After attending a few events I could tell this chapter had it going on. Very organized and hard working. I was excited. Being somewhat of an extrovert I knew I would have no issue jumping in and feeling welcome. Make yourself at home or go home I was once told as kid.

Before the meeting started (or maybe at the end) I was asked if I would be willing to record a short video for a new initiative called the Pursuit Fund. AIGA Raleigh was going to give three people money to undertake an endeavor that may have been hard if not impossible to do without some sort of financial assistance.

So lets back up here. For the past 12 years I have been almost an entirely digital designer working for myself. Web, web, web. Some print here and there but for the most part my work has rarely left the screen. I felt like I was ready to really make something. A real thing you can hold and smell and give to people. I have had this recent awakening to get back to what made America great as a country. To make things. I was burnt out and not feeling like I could create anymore. I felt like a pixel pusher. I was nearing 40 and felt like I had wasted the first 15 years of my career.

I want to share what I learn with the AIGA Raleigh community, and the local community at large, teach, engage, communicate, make friends. Make stuff!

Shot the video, walked out, attended the meeting and left. Honestly I forgot all about my little video. Sometime later I got an email asking if I had actually applied for the pursuit fund as the deadline was midnight of that night. It was something like 10pm. I (embarrassingly) spent the least amount of time I could on this as I was already spent from what was a long day. No disrespect was meant but I was tired and surely I wasn’t going to win anyway.

Imagine my surprise when I received an email saying I was selected along with two others for the first ever round of AIGA Raleigh Pursuit Funding to start my own screen-printing project! I hesitate to say business because as of right now it’s more for personal/creative fulfillment than any sort of moneymaking.

I was truly beside myself. This could actually happen!

Not long after finding out that I won I saw a screenprinting class being offered by Shane and Ross of Device out in Winston Salem. I jumped on it. Ended up being a one on one class. Had everything all to myself. A real crash course. Then as if by design, I saw a guy on Craigslist selling his entire screen-printing setup for not a lot of money. A 4-color 1-station press, exposure table, washout booth, screens, inks, supplies, screen drying rack, a ton of stuff. Rented a trailer and took the trip down to grab it all. Things were rolling along nicely. I just needed a space to print. Someplace to get dirty and sling some ink. How hard could could that be?

Apparently very, very hard.

I looked high and low. Garages, barns, sheds, rentals Raleigh to Carrboro, Apex and Cary. Even out in Saxapahaw. Nothing. Nada. Nil. Zilch. If there was a space it cost way too much. Finally after almost a year of looking I was ready to give up on the whole thing. I wanted to return the money and sell the equipment. I was frustrated, tired and frankly pissed off that I couldn’t seem to make it happen when so much had fallen in my lap. I was getting ready to move into my girlfriends house so space was about to be at even more of a premium.

Then I got a break. Found an incredible office space in Apex in a 1918 converted mule and tobacco building. Just dripping with vibe and vintage feel. Hardwoods throughout and classic styling all around. And a HUGE bonus, they would allow me to rent space in the basement to screen-print! I was on cloud nine. This was the office and setup of my dreams. After all these years of doing this at home I felt like I was making a huge step forward and was securing a place I could really start to soar in both my design career and in printing. Looked at it on Wednesday, told them I would take it on Friday and we would sign the lease the next week. On Monday I got an email from the realtor saying the entire suite of offices was being rented and I was no longer able to rent. I was crushed. Truly crushed. I actually fell into a slight depression. I was done. Spent. I spent the month not caring. I had given up and was starting the process of selling the gear and just walking away.

A month later the phone rings. My love, my muse, my angel who saved me in so many ways said the magic words. “I found you a screen-printing space. Meet me here at 3:30 and let’s look at it.” We did and it was perfect. Lease signed. Turns out she had spent the last month scouring everywhere and anywhere for me. She would not give up even when I had.

We have the gear loaded in. The shop is setup. I have spent a bit more on my own to make it bigger and better then I had imagined. I had the fire back. It’s go time.

Keep in mind all this time has just been spent getting equipment and securing and setting up the space. I have yet to pull a print. Life, work, all sorts of outside influences have take so much of my time. But I have been slowly chipping away.

It’s been a long, tiring journey. But I guess if you think about it that is what it is about. The Pursuit Fund. It is a pursuit. A journey, and adventure. It’s not supposed to be easy. And it wasn’t. But was it worth it? Damn right it was. Get out there. Grab hold of your passion. Don’t network, make friends.

I am so thankful for the chance AIGA Raleigh has taken on me. And I intend to pay it back many times over.

Next up… A closer look at the shop and what is going into it!

By Lenny Terenzi
Published September 1, 2013